Comedy Ain’t Pretty
by Joe Buonfiglio
My favorite comedy club in the world… a place of hilarious improvisational madness in which I have frequented and loved being in the audience, as well as having twice performed onstage… is closing next month under the specter of sexual harassment and discrimination by its owner. I never saw any of this; he always showed me nothing but kindness, patience and supportive encouragement. Apparently, others disagree and saw more of a monster than a mentor.
For me, this is an unbelievably sad day.
I am beside myself.
It was not that long ago that I accepted an invitation to appear as a “guest storyteller” at this locally renowned comedy theatre. I was to present four vignettes that could then be used as the basis for improvisational comedy by the club’s pros.
My theme for the evening, ironically enough in light of recent events, was:
DEEP… DARK… SECRETS!
As indicated in my “last-minute reminder” notes pictured above, the “shameful” skeletons hidden in the closet of my past that I chose to reveal to the audience that night were: I used to be in— PUBLIC RELATIONS; I used to be a member of— the KU KLUX KLAN (Don’t freak out until you’ve heard the whole story.); I hate dogs; and finally, astronaut Neil Armstrong once saved my ass.
The premise of “I used to be in public relations” was quite simple, really. I admitted to having once been in PR as if it was some kind of sin, and then proceeded to explain the obvious reasons why I had to leave the oft-maligned profession.
First of all, I can’t remember people’s names. This is a big problem if you’re in “public” (AKA “people”) relations. I brought a man up from the audience, which TOTALLY freaked out the cast as being — as one of them put it — “unprecedented.”
“You don’t have to do this,” one cast member nervously stated.
“No-no, yes you do!” I demanded. “Come on up here.”
What they didn’t discern was that the man being brought up onto the stage was my son and this had been prearranged earlier that day.
“What’s your name?” I questioned my shill from the audience.
“Tom,” he declared.
“Thank you, Betsy,” I said, “You can sit back down now.”
I also demonstrated that when I get nervous, such as when I meet people for the first time, I tend to kiss them. Bringing my son back up, I then proceeded to rather shockingly plant a smoocher on the “randomly selected” audience member “Betsy” right there onstage, further stressing the horrified comedians by my actions.
Next I did a little hand-sanitizer routine as to why being a germophobe isn’t such a good thing in the glad-handing world of public relations; admittedly, that didn’t seem to go over as well as the other two segments of the bit. Still, it was a good routine overall.
After the improv pros worked with that for a while, my next reveal from my past was the most dangerous. As I sort of stepped on the third rail of comedy, I’m told the look of horror on the faces of the comedians standing behind me was priceless.
No, I didn’t talk about Hitler, but the “next best thing” in the list of comedy “DON’TS,” as I announced that “I used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Yep. I went there.
Let me explain.
My rather meandering tale surrounded the fact that I was a journalist in a past life, and that during my college years in this course of study, I had to do a project as a final exam involving investigative reporting. My subject of choice: the KKK.
To make the proverbial long story short, I infiltrated a cross-burning ceremony on a farm outside of Ocala, Florida. This involved me and a law student co-conspirator taking my old rusted-out pickup truck to the insidious event to research the story. What we didn’t realize was that we’d have to fill out paperwork to actually JOIN the reviled organization in order to even get in. Not only that, but there were enough Klansmen to start a small city, as the “Imperial Wizard” of the Klan was there to speak that night.
After our deception was discovered, we barely made it out with our skins having to literally make our escape with Klansmen in pursuit. The punchline to the tale was that as we raced into the parking area to find my truck for our getaway, we encountered a veritable SEA of old rusted-out pickup trucks that looked EXACTLY like mine. It would have been easier to find the idiomatic “needle in a haystack” than my chosen means of transportation.
As I am alive to tell the tale, we obviously got out of there before they caught up with us. Oh, and I was able to sneak my KKK-membership application off the pile of them when no one was looking. So yes, I WAS a member of the Ku Klux Klan… … … for about 15 seconds.
“Go ahead,” I said to the stunned comedic-improvisational professionals behind me, “do something with that!”
The next about-to-be-exposed tidbit pissed off people more than the KKK story:
I hate dogs. I knew this simple premise, while endearing me to cat-people, would make me the villain with dog owners. From goofy, cuddly puppies (“Oooooh, I’m alive! Look at me! I just peed on the rug. Yeeeeeeeea!”) to full-blown adult mutts who obediently await your arrival home to drop a fresh-killed smelly something-or-other at your feet, I hate dogs… and cats… and I’m not really fond of birds or snakes… or people.
Okay, basically, I hate everything.
And finally, the tale of how Neil Armstrong once saved my ass.
So, once again trying to come up with the elevator-pitch CliffsNotes account of this sliver along my personal timeline, the bottom line is that a creative partner and I needed a stretch-out-the-time filler piece to add to our Theatre of the Absurd radio show in order to get a national airing. Being the luckiest sons-a-bitches in the world, we accidentally discovered that if you play Armstrong’s “one small step for man” moon-landing speech backwards, it sounds as if he’s saying, “Man, this baseball smells bad.”
I shit you not.
Try it yourself, if you don’t believe me.
This saved our ass and the weird little show aired across the country. And speaking of asses, with the help of the comedy club’s DJ, I did an audio demonstration of this for the audience; they laughed their asses off.
“Next time,” I said concluding my bit, “I’ll tell you how John Glenn saved my nipples.”
Deep, dark secrets: whether you believe in their veracity or not, sometimes they can be funny as hell… and sometimes they can shut down a comedy club.
© 2017 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.
All photos are © 2017 Joseph P. Buonfiglio with All Rights Reserved.